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Rome Isn't Burning

Franz awoke without opening his eyes to the sound of laughter and talking around him.  Confused and disoriented, he rapidly blinked first one and then the other eye several times, until both seemed functional enough to open slowly.  The first sight that met him was a golden lyre propped against a divan across from him, and he realized he reclined on a similar such furnishing.  The room was dimly illuminated by candlelight, but revealed four other young boys with him.  The nearest to him, a raven-maned chisel-featured chap, sported shoulder length wavy hair and a chinstrap beard with no mustache.  He was laughing at something one of the others had just said.

                    “Aaah, it looks as though our new friend is finally awake,” noticed another, a handsome young redhead with short curly hair.

Franz felt there was something not-quite-right about his eyes.

The third in this newfound company was a blonde with short hair and a brush mustache, and the fourth an olive-toned athletic brunette.  Three wore Roman style togas, while the darker fellow bore an Egyptian style shendyte and headdress, like the hieroglyphs seen on the ancient pyramids.

          “Where am I?” Franz stammered.   “And who are you?”

The last thing he remembered he was lying ill in his own bed.  The doctor had just left after giving him some foul tasting medicine.

                    “You can call me Quintus, the redhead is Gaius, his friend is called Marcus, and the Egyptian goes by Philippi,” the blonde answered.  He seemed to be the oldest of the lot. “As for where you are, it is known as the Domus Spurius,” he said with a smirk.

          “Pardon me, my Latin is not all that great,” Franz puzzled.  “...but doesn’t that translate to ‘Bastard House?’”

At this, all four of his new compatriots burst out laughing.

          “Great,” Franz thought.  He had gone off to the academy to learn, and it appeared he was going to be stuck with a house full of jokers who partied all the time.  They all were drinking wine, and appeared to be pouring opium into it.

He remembered that the doctor said something about the medicine causing minor delirium; he supposed that’s how he wound up in the common room in the first place.  He’d probably wandered down here in a sleep induced haze, and now he was left having to deal with whatever debauched ritual stunt his dorm-mates were performing.

                    “We gave you our names,” the blonde continued, rallied from his laughter.  “...so what is yours?” he asked.

          “Franz,” came the quick reply, and then, the practiced follow up he often added, to avoid the empty space left by it.  “People call me Franz.”

He purposely avoided giving his full name.  His father’s shadow hung over him like a thick black storm cloud, following him to every corner of the world, it seemed.

                    “Welcome, Franz,” the boy called Quintus said, bowing.  “...to our humble villa.”

Quintus clapped his hands, and several young ladies wearing diaphanous togas came in, bearing wine, fruit, cheeses, breads, and meats.

                    “Aaah, refreshments,” Gaius oozed, leering over the girls.

          “Uh-huh, well,” Franz scratched the back of his neck, looking towards his feet.  “It appears I am overdressed.”

His mother would lose her mind if she ever found him in such a setting.

                    “Oh, loosen up,” Philippi scolded, taking an amber colored wine from one of the maidens.  “Have a drink and relax.”

          “Look, I don’t mean any disrespect,” Franz began.  “But I’m here to study, not party.  I don’t even know how I got here.  One minute, I was ill in bed, and the next I was lying on that divan over there.”

                    “How sick were you?” Quintus asked.

          “It was just a severe cold, and I am obviously feeling better now...” Franz frowned, still a little cloudy-headed.  “...just a touch woozy and hazy.”

                    “Drink this,” Philippi urged, offering a glass of the amber colored wine.

          “Alright,” Franz agreed, taking a swallow of the wine.  As he did so, his eyes lit up with a wave of sensual pleasure shot through his entire body.  “What the heck is this stuff?!” he gasped.

                    “It’s called ambrosia,” Philippi explained, sitting up on his divan.

He made a quick sweeping gesture of his hands and the ladies left.  Gaius sighed as they last one walked out.

                    “Now, see here, my good man,” Philippi began again, suddenly more intent.  “There is something serious we need to tell you.”

                    “Give him the bottle,” Gaius chortled.  “It will help.”

                    “Shut up!” Marcus barked.  “Must you always be so malevolent?”

He glared at Gaius, then picked up the lyre and started playing, shutting out the rest of his surroundings.

The others simply rolled their eyes and stared at Franz.

Another Egyptian boy ambled in and sat down next to Philippi.

                    “Who’s the new recruit?” the latest addition asked.

                    “He calls himself ‘Franz’,” Gaius sneered.

          “My name is Franz,” Franz contended, and parroted his earlier declaration.  “...at least, that is what everyone calls me.”

He took another sip of wine.

                    “We need to know your full name, Franz,” Quintus looked at him seriously.  “It’s very important.”

          “Well...” his brain struggled against his intention.  He knew there was some reason that this was not okay, but somehow he couldn’t hang on to the notion of why.  “Okay,” he mumbled.

Franz was feeling more than a little tipsy, even though he’d only had two swallows of the wine.

          “My name is Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte.”

Gaius looked him up and down.

                    “Funny, I thought you’d be shorter,” Gaius clucked.

Franz rolled his eyes.

          “I’m his son, you fool,” he chided.  “The man has been dead for 11 years now, are you drunk or something?”

                    “Look who’s talking!” Gaius retorted, restraining a laugh.  “You want to know MY full name?”

Gaius was still trying to control his laughter, but stood up, swaying a bit.  Quintus and Philippi both moved their hands to the knives at their hilts as they watched him.

                    “Allow me to properly introduce myself,” he declared loudly to the room, but seemingly to an audience much bigger than the space they occupied.

He had stopped laughing, all the mirth leaving his countenance.

                    “My name is Gaius Caesar Germanicus,” he nodded to some far off point in the distance, holding his hand over his heart.  “...better known as Caligula,” and with this, he gave a flourishing bow, then toppled onto his divan.

Quintus relaxed his grip on his dagger as Caligula settled himself.

                    “If we’re doing proper introductions,” he said, “I am Marcus Junius Brutus, and this,” he gestured toward Philippi.  “...is my half-brother, Ptolemy Philopator Philometor Caesar, whom some have known as Caeserion, or Little Caesar.

                    “The handsome fellow there,” he nodded to the new guy, “is Pharoah Tutankhamun, son of Akenhaten and Nefrititi.”

                    “And the fool there stroking his instrument is Marcus Domitius Ahenobarbus,” Caligula chimed in, pointing grandly at Marcus.  “...otherwise known as Nero.”

Nero continued to play, ignoring the lot of them.

          “That’s ridiculous,” Franz protested.  “Look, guys, this has been fun and all, and I don’t exactly know what kind of game this is, but those are people who were assassinated centuries ago...”

He looked out over the gathered group, whose scrutiny he could almost feel boring through the back of his skull.

          “I don’t get it...” he continued, fumbling.  “...what’s the big idea about claiming the identities of the greatest tyrants...” he stopped short, his jaw hanging, suddenly struggling for breath.

          “Wait,” he stammered.  “...am I...” he choked on the thought, but could not get it out.

                    “Dead?!” Caligula shrieked.  “Oh, man, you’re SO expired!,” he howled with delight, gleefully carrying on.  “You’ve shuffled off the proverbial mortal coil!  You’ve joined the choir invisible!  You are an EX-person!”

                    “Cut it out, Caligula!” Brutus commanded sternly.

          “I’m dead,” Franz murmured sullenly, looking down, the truth sinking in.

Then his head shot up.

          “I’m in Hell!”

                    “What is he talking about?” Caeserion inquired of Brutus.

                    “I am not sure,” Brutus scowled.   “My friend, I believe you mistake us.  You are in Old Rome.”

Brutus cleared his throat.

                    “Well, actually…  that is to say, Old Cypress,” he corrected himself.  “We are not very well liked in Old Rome.”



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 29th, 2014 06:17 am (UTC)
Ha! Pretty interesting take..I really enjoyed it..names and all..lovely set up..Good Job! A Fun read!
Jul. 30th, 2014 02:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I really enjoyed writing this piec with these characters
Jul. 29th, 2014 01:43 pm (UTC)
You really are such a gifted writer. Your dialogue hums!
Jul. 30th, 2014 02:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you, for your kind words.
Jul. 29th, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
So much fun!!! I always look forward to your entries, and you never disappoint.
Jul. 30th, 2014 02:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I am glad you enjoy my writing.
Jul. 29th, 2014 07:59 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday!
Jul. 30th, 2014 02:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jul. 30th, 2014 09:59 pm (UTC)
Intriguing! Quite an interesting bunch of characters you've assembled.
Jul. 31st, 2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you I am a history buff and I always wanted to write something like this.
Jul. 30th, 2014 11:34 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha! I loved that all of them kept their 'true' names hidden, and for understandable reasons.

It's always such a shock, going to sleep sick and waking up dead. Especially with a crowd like that. ;)
Jul. 31st, 2014 06:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you I didn't want to come right out with who the characters were. I can only imagine how unpleasant it would be to wake up with this group.
Jul. 31st, 2014 12:12 am (UTC)
It would be interesting to find out how the son of a tyrant ended up in a hall of the original article. Also, I was surprised to learn that so many notorious figures of history were killed so young.

Edited at 2014-07-31 12:12 am (UTC)
Jul. 31st, 2014 01:14 am (UTC)
I might revisit how he came to be there later, Yes, the saying I'm gonna live for ever if the good die young does not always apply.
Jul. 31st, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
Oops, looks like he got routed a bit oddly. Someone else must have mistaken him for his dad....
Jul. 31st, 2014 07:00 pm (UTC)
Hehehehe, Being mistaken for your parent especially if they are famous or in this case infamous can always be something of a challenge.
Jul. 31st, 2014 08:45 am (UTC)
This was really clever, I quite enjoyed it.
Jul. 31st, 2014 06:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Jul. 31st, 2014 06:28 pm (UTC)
Oooooh i loved your characters and how they have enlivened your take on the topic. You are a talented writer with quite a way with words. Well done
Jul. 31st, 2014 07:01 pm (UTC)
I appreciate your comments thank you,I'm glad you enjoyed my story.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )